By Michael C. Mack
Friday night, after a long battle with cancer, jack cotrell, 84, rose from earth to heaven. Dr. Cottrell was Professor of Theology at Cincinnati Christian University for 48 years, from September 1967 to December 2015. He earned a BA and ThB from Cincinnati Christian University, a BA in Philosophy from the University of Cincinnati, a MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Jack married Barbara in 1958 and they have three children and four grandchildren. He recently ministered with the First Church of Christ in Greendale, Ind. He resided just outside of Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Throughout his life, Dr. Cottrell enjoyed helping others come to a clearer and more accurate understanding of biblical and doctrinal issues. He said so on his website, but almost everyone who met him, and those who read his books, already knew that.
I spent much of Saturday morning reading the many Facebook posts and comments about Dr. Cottrell’s life. (I’m sure many others who had him as a teacher, knew him as a ministry partner, and followed him on social media did the same.) In these posts, Dr. Cottrell was described as an excellent teacher, mentor, faithful co-worker, friend, source of biblical knowledge, gold standard of doctrine, man of God, a fierce defender of the faith and a powerful example of the gospel message fully lived.
As many others have expressed, Dr. Cottrell’s Doctrine of Grace course has also changed my life. Most of my classmates from 35 years ago had already graduated from Bible college, and almost all of them had grown up in Christian homes and churches. But not me. I had entered seminary a few months after my baptism, and my biblical understanding was still rather immature. Everything Dr. Cottrell taught was new information to me, and I took many notes, including lists of words I didn’t know, which I wrote in the margins of my notebook.
Every day after class, I would wait for everyone to leave, then take my list — and any other questions I had — to Dr. Cottrell, asking him for definitions and explanations. He was incredibly patient with me, and I learned as much of the grace from his example as from his teaching of the program.
I believe Matt Proctor, President of Ozark Christian College, summed up Jack Cottrell’s life extremely well in a Facebook post:
He anchored several generations of ministry students in a deep understanding of the Word of God, and he molded for them a commitment to “handle the word of truth correctly” (2 Timothy 2:15). Despite all his impressive college degrees, he kept putting his finger back on the pages of his Bible, and when those words clashed with the thinking of the world, he always let the text win out. He was a Man of the Book, and in their ministries his thousands of students are now shaping a People of the Book.
I am so grateful to have been able to be one of those students.
Earlier this year, Dr. Cottrell updated his many Facebook followers on his condition. He wrote,
We must be ready one day to say “Goodbye!” to those bodies, and to wait with Jesus in angelic heaven for the time when He will give us new glorified bodies that will be forever free from this curse.
So when we are faced with death in this fallen world, it is okay to pray for healing and prolonging life (Plan A), but remember that if God chooses not to answer these prayers, He has a PLAN A+ ahead of us, which is Romans 8:18: “For I judge that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which is to be revealed to us.” So, we “look forward to it. . . the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). Alleluia!
In the coming days, we will mourn with Dr. Cottrell’s family and loved ones, as we celebrate his life. We will give you more details on the terms and conditions soon. Also watch over the next few days for an article on our website by one of Dr. Cottrell’s many good friends. Our truth-focused January/February print issue will include a compilation of some of Dr. Cottrell’s best articles. Christian standard articles on this subject.
Michael C. Mack is editor of Christian standard.